Are You at Risk for Colorectal Cancer?
The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that over 135,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S. It is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country, but with ongoing medical innovation, doctors are now better equipped than ever to promote prevention through early detection. More than a million survivors owe their lives to the current prevention culture and the information that has been made available on the known risk factors.
Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer
Although everyone is considered to at least have an average risk for colorectal cancer, researchers have uncovered that certain people are at higher risk for developing the disease. The different types of predispositions are labeled “risk factors,” and while some of these conditions can be changed, others are a matter of heredity and genetics. It is important to note that having a risk factor for colorectal cancer does not necessarily mean that you will have colorectal cancer. Conversely, people who have none of the known risk factors may ultimately be diagnosed.
Risk Factors that You Can Change
- Obesity: Being obese is a major risk factor that affects both men and women, but tends to be stronger in men.
- Exercise: Lack of physical activity raises your chances of developing colorectal cancer.
- Diet: A diet that is dominated by red meats and processed meats is also a risk factor, while eating more vegetables, fruits and whole grains can help lower that risk.
- Smoking: This has long been known to cause lung cancer, but it has also been linked to colorectal cancer. The risk factor is more prominent in long-term smokers.
- Alcohol: Heavy consumption is another risk factor that can be lowered with moderation. The ACS recommends that men have no more than two drinks a day, and women no more than one.
Risk Factors That Cannot Be Changed
Age: More specifically, being over the age of 50 increases your chances of getting colorectal cancer.
Medical History: Certain pre-existing conditions can put you at risk of colorectal cancer. These include colorectal polyps, adenomatous polyps (adenomas), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease will put you at a greater risk.
- Patients with Type 2 Diabetes also have an increased risk of developing cancerous polyps in the colon and rectum.
- Having undergone treatment for certain types of cancer may also put you at risk. This includes men who have survived testicular cancer or have had radiation therapy for prostate cancer.
Family Medical History: You may be at risk if someone in your family has had colorectal cancer, or related genetic defects. The cause of the cancer may be difficult to pinpoint as it may arise from inherited genes, shared environmental factors or a combination of both.
- Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) is an inherited syndrome that can cause the development of colorectal cancer at a young age.
- Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, or HNPCC) can also cause family members to develop cancers when they are relatively young, although not as young as in FAP.
- Turcot Syndrome is an uncommon hereditary condition that can play a large role in causing several different types of cancer.
Racial and Ethnic Backgrounds also play a role in cancer risk, but the reasons are not yet fully understood. This may also be a result of inherited genes, environmental factors or a combination of both.
- African Americans seem to have a disproportionately higher rate of colorectal cancer diagnosis and deaths out of all racial groups in the U.S.
- Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) are at a higher risk for this disease than any other ethnic group in the world.
If several of these risk factors pertain to you then you should not wait to turn 50 to opt for screening. This is especially the case if you have Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, which can cause colorectal cancer at a young age.
If you reside in the New York metropolitan area and are concerned that you are at a risk for colorectal cancer, then you should contact Gotham Medical Associates. We provide consultations and offer preventative procedures like colonoscopies, the most effective way of identifying colorectal cancer and removing precancerous polyps. Whatever your risk profile, the doctors at Gotham Medical Associates can help. Fill out the form on this page to request an appointment or call 212.227.3688 to learn more.